Saturday, 27 June 2009

First Stop Blackwell

We're just back from a week in the Lake District.

The third load of washing is on, we've unpacked, and the cases are back in the loft. We've had dinner etc. and having checked up emails, and caught up with friends' blogs, its time to share some of the lovely things we did over our holiday.

First stop was Blackwell, the Arts & Crafts House. Just south of Windermere, this treat of a place, was everything I had expected to be and more. The White Drawing Room just glows with the light reflected off the lake, and the very clever placement of small mirrors in the panelling, means that even with one's back to the windows, you can still see the Lake. There was so much to be amazed by, the only sad thing is I wonder whether there are the crafts people in England and the will and the wealth to build such places today.
The view over Windermere is just breath taking. On the side of the house facing the lake, there is a terrace with tables, and a long border against the house, but otherwise it is the natural landscape which reigns supreme.

We had a delicious lunch in what used to be the kitchen, before spending more time in the garden. It was good to see that much care had been taken in the choice of furnishings, crockery, cutlery and menu to give an eating experience in harmony with the house.
I was intrigued by the charred wooden piece set in the lawn. It was large in scale, and must have taken so many trees and so much work to construct.

Everywhere were well executed details, which ranged from plasterwork, woodwork, massive stone chimney breasts in the Hall, and even to patterns on the external guttering and hopper heads. The Architect Baillie Scott must have loved this commission.

Living for a number of years on the edge of the Cotswolds, I have grown to love and appreciate the furniture and textiles of the Art & Crafts movement, and used to pop into the Museum in Cheltenham, where they have a very good collection of furniture

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Falling off my bike

Yesterday, I fell off my bike. On seeing a taxi suddenly coming out of a drive, I pulled on my breaks, and somehow, I tumbled over, with the bike landing on me! The bike is not quite so fine. I did not hit the car, and the kind driver was all attention, and helped me, till I felt able to stagger home.

For the first time in a long time, I was not wearing gloves, so one hand was grazed and the other was good enough for me to be able to pick the grit out. When I got home, the bruises started to hurt as well as the other hand and wrist. The little bottle of arnica oil which I bought last year in Morocco is just by me. I have never used it before, and am amazed by how effective it is. There is no picture of the bruises but if you want to know they are very big now and purple, but not as big as I thought they were going to be! I had fully intended going to knitting but last night it was only one hand....which if quite sufficient for eating fish and chips...sorry but cooking was out of the question, and there was no way way I could knit or even drive.

As I am not able to knit or do too much, I am enjoying an afternoon updating my blog.....I am starting to feel much better, and wonder whether typing has helped my wrist not be seize up. So it is back to home cooking for our supper tonight.

Day out with Friend

Its Rita's birthday this week....she's a year older than she was last year!After conferring, Rita chose a visit to Baddesley Clinton, which is our nearest National Trust House as her birthday treat.
On Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed our drive through the glorious Warwickshire countryside. The oak trees are showing their best summer dark green leaves.
The main car park looked pretty full, and I would have to park quite a long way from the house, so I decided to drive up to the disabled parking, close by the ticket office. I said to Rita that we would need keep all her energy for the house, and if needed I would move the car, when we had found her a seat.

At the desk, I explained that I was bringing my friend for her birthday treat, and that I had parked but had no disabled badge, to spare my friends legs. When I asked if I needed to move, not only was I awarded with a smile and 'that will be fine', when I produced my NT card and wallet to pay for Rita, we were told that Rita was to be their guest for the day. She was really charmed by this.

I bought the house guide, which really added to our enjoyment of the tour. Rita managed all the stairs, and with seats available in many areas, certainly did not want to miss any rooms out. After a very interesting tour of the house, yes I did notice the embroidered bedspread in the Blue Room, which on further enquiry I found to be mainly Elizabethan, we sat down for a birthday tea in the grassed area close to the old stables. We enjoyed scones and tea, then ice cream, whilst several mallards walked around searching for and also being fed crumbs.

Finally we walked around the garden, where the peonies were looking splendid. Rita was even game for a walk down to the vegetable garden, which was very well tended. Close by the glass houses we saw a very large yew tree covered in small white roses, it must have been Himalayan Musk or Kifsgate. As I was taking pictures, someone offered to take a picture of us together.

Kenilworth Lions Charity Grand Show

It was a glorious and sunny day.....and people were making their way towards the Abbey Fields. I arrived a little later than I had planned and sans Mr S. After a lovely lunch in the garden Mr S decided to relax at home. When I returned and chatted about the event, he wished he had come!

I sat and watched Elaine Hill and her sheepdogs entertain the crowds with her display of herding geese and teenage ducklings. I found a bit of shade close to Clinton School Steel Band's pitch and enjoyed listening to them which the course was being set up. Later I moved to the other end of the arena, to get a better view of the ducks.

After visiting the stands and chatting to friends and acquaintances, I bought a number of tickets from the Allotment group, not really making a note of the prizes. Just look at what I won....I tried to give it away, but when I called on the local children's home, they were all out, so the egg is now in pieces and hopefully, it will get shared out amongst visitors....and I shall get out my chocolate cookery book.

A Summer of Strawberries

Down at the weekly Market on Thursday, I bought two punnets of strawberries. They were English strawberries, excellent colour and flavour, with a variety of sizes and shapes. The reason for two punnets was that we were having our lunch for Mauritian Ladies at Marie-Claire's, and I had volunteered to make the desert. I rushed back and made the Pavlova base.

Marie-Claire excelled in a variety of Mauritian dishes ranging from fish curry, potato and spinach curry, etoufe of watercress, and an aubergine dish. There was rice and salads, and quite honestly it was more of a banquet that a lunch.

After a bit of a rest, and lots of chattering, I went through to build up the pavlova. I had made up the base that morning, prepared the strawberries, and had decided to use half fat creme fraiche. Because of the walk to MCs, I thought it best to take the components and assemble the desert just before serving.

I had to explain to the gang that I associated Pavlova with Mauritius, as it was one of my mother's specialities: not meringue which is just hard and brittle, but with the addition of cornflour and a little cider vinegar, the center is like marshmallow. She would often make big ones to take with her when dining with friends. Everyone loved the desert and MC's husband was at hand to finish it off!

With three egg whites I had sufficient to make a large base, and a small one. Mr S loves desert

and I kept strawberries, and sufficient creme fraiche for later. With a little sprinkling of icing sugar, there was enough for two!

During the lunch Rita told me that her friend Dick at the Allotment, had asked her to let me know that his strawberries were ready for picking and would I like to get round there prompto. Friday saw me picking several tubs and cycling back via Waitrose to pick up a 2 kg bag of T & L sugar.

I left the berries to ripen a little further in the sun on the kitchen windowsill, and then next morning at 6 started the strawberry cleaning and jam making marathon. Thank you jars have already been delivered to Dick and Rita, calling with four mini pots for Jean. I keep the little miniature pots from cream teas, to pot up for friends who live on their own and find a normal jar a little too big.

Late Spring Bank Holiday Outing

It seems ages ago now...since Mr S and I went round Charlecote House. We've been several times before, but I just fancied going over to while away and spend some time together. We started by a tour of the garden center opposite the house. We managed to find a bench in a shady spot and indulged in some excellent ice cream.

We were not going to look at anything in particular. There is so much of interest there, from the deer in the park, the Jacob sheep, and the gardens, to a house crammed full of interesting objects. This time some snippets of note were: overhearing in the gatehouse, some people talking about 'the robbery', in the house some of the dark wood furniture, which we found out were made of ebony, excellent pieces of needlework, and the small thatched cottage in the garden. It is close to the Orangery, and closed up. The builder had found so many interesting pieces of wood to decorate the exterior walls, and the door panels were made up of gnarled burrs.
It was not easy to see inside, but in the light filtering through small stained glass windows, I could make out beautiful panelling and some small pieces of china on a shelf.

On our way out, I wanted to see whether there were any postcards showing details of the house contents, but could not find any. I made a note of a book and was pleased to find it at the Library. I've just finished reading it, which is why I thought of adding this post even though is is several weeks since our visit.

I found the book delightful and there were many passages which for me were of note: details of the robbery, linking into the converation overheard in the gatehouse, details of Mary's visits to Wales, where we had been to recently, details of the cottage which was built for children and grand children to play in. The latter reminded me of a recent Friday night Gardeners World item about some people who had built a series of elaborate garden houses, for their children to play in.

As Mary Elizabeth Lucy was writing her memoirs for her family, the writings have an intimate quality, and her descriptions of her domestic and personal life are so very different from 'History Books'. She lived through the Victorian Period, and her description of her travels, by coach and also by train show the efforts they had to make and hardships that people, even when they could afford the best, had to bear. It is so much easier these days!

More about the crewel project

Except for doing some embroidery with my Aunty Suzanne, when I was about 9, I am a novice. However, I am getting pretty excited about this Crewel thing....its a cruel hobby, as it does take quite a long time to perfect the stitches, let alone get all the items together, and decided on what stitches to use. Once you start on a section, you just have to do that little bit more.

I am starting to collect together various yarns for my project. One of my first ports of call was the shop in Shipston. On this trip, and there will be more, as the little town is so interesting, I took my piece of cloth to match the colours I wanted.

This is the wonderful display of Appleton Yarns. They do come in smaller skeins too, but with hanks there would be enough to offer to my fellow crafters at our afternoon embroidery sessions.

I had two accomplices on this gallivanting session. After an excellent smoked salmon and prawn salad at the tea shop opposite the Needlecraft shop, we drove over to view the Patchwork Quilt exhibition at the Forge Mill Needle Museum on the outskirts of Redditch. The patchwork quilts were attractively set out on the ground floor of the museum. In the mill, needles were made from about 1730, till only a few years ago. The displays are excellent and the museum is well worth a visit. Redditch used to dominate the world of needle making, but sadly no longer. In the current climate of Globalisation, needles manufactured abroad are imported and packaged in the UK.

My mother who went to a small village school in Lincolnshire, knew a thing or two, and many more about her geography, and it seemed quite strange to me, as a youngster in Mauritius, that she could go through the names of many towns in England, and recite what were their main claims to fame in the manufacturing scheme of things. One I remember is Reading: Biscuits. I would have loved to have spoken to her about the needle industry in Redditch to see if that was one she knew of.

Looking at the wonderful antique works of embroidery from the Middle Ages, I have been wondering what needles were used. Last night I read that the 'modern' needle was probably introduced into England from China, and that steel needles were being manufactured in England by 1545.

Monday, 8 June 2009

New Project - Crewel Embroidery

The new project was to have included crewel embroidery on some linen cloth, but knowing we needed to do some practice, Kay brought some vintage linen printed cloth, for us to use. Our enthusiasm and liking for the fabric has led us into turning this practice piece into a finished article. What this will be is not yet decided.

I have made a small start, and am hoping to try out various other stitches. I've assembled various books and am enjoying reading up about the history of crewel work. Learning a little about a historic craft has helped me to develop better appreciation of the many and varied needlework items in historic houses and museums.

By the time we finish this first effort, we shall be more adept at the large variety of stitches, and can then start work on our special piece.

Making the best of a wet day

If the weather is good, then there is usually no stopping outdoor activity. This weekend the weather has been horrible. It was such a shame since there were so many events organised. However, since I had committed myself to two on one day, I roused myself and decided to make the most of things, and not once, did I feel down hearted.

I had charged up the phone as requested, decided to wear all the thermal layers and best waterproof outer layers, donned my yellow plastic MARSHALL tabard, grabbed the largest umbrella, and set off down the road to help out with the Two Castles Run. It was a very good turn out on the part of the runners, and what a hardy and brave lot they were. There were some notable runners: one chap running for water aid run in a tap costume, a young couple ran with their baby in a buggy, and there were some colourful costumes too, and there two young men with broken legs were running with crutches, and I noticed two good looking soldiers running with full back backs.

After a warm up with central heating, we set off for the Kenilworth and District Agricultural Show. The roads were running with surface water but as we approached the rain appeared to ease and as the afternoon progressed it did brighten up. Strengthened with buffalo burgers, ice cream and other goodies, we walked amongst the various exhibits, and there were lots of lovely young animals in peek condition to please the audience. I was going to say crowds but I fear that it was a very poor turnout this year. Mr S enjoyed seeing all the dogs, and his eye was caught by a very good natured Patterdale Terrier and her more lively pup.

The Alpaca Tent was full of lovely woolly beasts, and one of the owners was very pleased to show me the lovely fleece, when I explained it was one of my favourite yarns for knitting.

The cattle were very docile, and handled well. There were cows with their calves, as well as bulls.

I was pleased to see some spinners, and later in the main arena, I spotted this pair of horses, with natty crocheted head gear.

Mick Smith my usual Kenilworth honey supplier and bee keeper, explained the art or beekeeping with people donning suits and helping inside a netted enclosure. We bought the first of this year's honey, which Mr S is taking each day with nettle tea, and which is now keeping his hay fever at bay.

We could have done with more seats, I just had to take the weight off my feet:

It wasn't long before I was joined by a very amusing chap with long legs!

Calke Abbey

Saturday was the sort of day best suited for battening down the hatches, staying in bed & reading a good book, as the day was so cold and wet. Only just a week ago, we were lunching in Leamington, at Strada, having a lovely Italian Lunch sheltering from the scorching sun under a large umbrella.

Mr S had set his mind on going to a show, and fancying a day together, I found that Calke Abbey was close by. Calke Abbey was not quite like any other National Trust Property. The building was stuffed with treasures, some were absolutely in pristine condition.

Other areas were just piled high with old furniture just as they were left when the building was donated to the Trust. As well as superb embroidery on the chairs, protected mostly by covers, was a superb set of embroidered bed hangings. Given as a present in 1734, the first time they were unwrapped was 1984. The colours are so fresh, it is hard to believe that it has not just been made. I do not think that these is either the skill or the will, or the wealth to create such a superb item these days.

Its not possible to photograph anything in the house, but I downloaded this from the National Trust site. The grasslands around the house were filled with wonderful wild flowers, and a pleasant walk up the hill led to some interesting walled gardens. The auricula theatre was filled with a wide variety of Pelagoniums, and it was interesting to peer into the various work areas, with stacks of old graded clay plant pots, drawers of seeds, and old tools.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Hand made box

Going each week to the Kenilworth WI Craft Group, under the guidance of our expert needlewoman, I've now advanced beyond sewing on the odd shirt button!

I look a picture of the embroidery just as it came off the hoop.

There was much measuring, and cutting out of card, and fabric, glueing etc, before getting to the stage of using the curved needle. Between the weekly get togethers, a little work is expected, and some evenings instead of knitting, I like to spend some time on my current sewing/craft project. All shapes and sizes of boxes were made by different members of the group. I wanted to make a box to hold some lovely hankerchiefs which I have. My mother used to give me some nice ones from time to time, and now I have some of her old ones too. They are the sort of small things which I like to collect or stash away. I do use them too.

Here is the finished box, with its little glass bead, which I bought from the new bead shop which has opened in Kenilworth on Warwick Road.

Hearing from a well loved friend

This friend I feel I have known fore ever. It is an honour to call her Aunty.

Like my mother and a number of English Women, Aunty P left England to settle in a very far off land, with her Mauritian husband in the early fifties. This was before the days of easy or affordable plane flights, and after Suez was closed, the sea passage via South Africa took several weeks, there were no emails and cheap phone calls.

I received an email from Aunty P containing a 'blessing' . It originated in the form of a round Robin . What I liked was that it started with:
Remember to make a wish before you read this.

The bit about sending it on to x number of people did not really appeal to me. I'm one of these people where many of these pyramid type things grinds to a halt! Having thought what a lovely blessing this was, I have decided to write this out here, and many more people than x may read this , but they will not necessarily feel that they have to do anything further.

Remember to make a wish before you read this:

May today be there peace within.
May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.
May you use the gifts you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself just the way you are.
Let this knowledge settle in your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and everyone of us.

Aunty P, and many other women like her and my mum, had met up with their husbands and then went out to settle, and bring up their families in Mauritius. These Mauritian men, many of them having volunteered and fought alongside the British Army during WW II, afterwards studied in fields of their choice. Younger men than my father had to wait until after the war to start on the foreign studies.

Afterwards, many of them wanted to return home and contribute to their home land. They returned with their British Wives, yes I remember English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh and  Channel Island 'Aunties'. Like my father, many of these young men were the cream of the students for their years, having won scholarships to study at overseas Universities. Mauritians really value education, and today Mauritius has an excellent University, but still parents sends their children to study abroad, making great sacrifices to pay for their children's education.

Monday, 1 June 2009


Just thought I would check the dictionary's definition:
Gallivant: to spend time frivolously, to gad about.
To gad: to wander about, often restlessly, idly or in pursuit of pleasure.
As a girl and since, I use this word to describe spending a few hours or a day going out and about, as if on holiday. Some of the day may have started with a specific aim in mind, it is not restless, but mainly restful, pleasurable usually very much so, and to be a good day out gallivanting, it is also fruitful or memorable.
At this stage of my life, I am taking every opportunity to enjoy the odd day out gallivanting. In the absence of Mr S, having a good friend to share this can only increases the pleasure. Last year when my sister Jenny was here, we have many a day out Gallivanting, and I became known as Galli and Jenny as Vanting.
Having looked up another word only a couple of days ago, I believe that I am a serendipitist, I seem to have the faculty of making happy chance finds. Well at the very least I take great pleasure in making chance finds, and I seem to get many. I think this therefore turns gallivanting into the opportunity of making happy chance finds, and looking for chance finds the reason to go gallivanting.
Friday was an excellent day. The weather was sunny and warm, and I had already agreed that Mr S should bus to work allowing me the use of the car should I wish it. I had been wondering how best to procure some linen for my new project, and had exhausted local sources. Having researched suitable haberdasheries within reasonable distance, I decided to visit a small town in the Cotswolds which was completely new to me: Shipston on Stour. I also found that Whichford Pottery was a short distance away, and planned to visit there too. I had admired their pots at Wisley only a short time ago, and had hankered after a quality English made pot, with Warwickshire, my new county's name on it.
A new friend and near neighbour, made an excellent companion. She was new to the area, needed some comfort amidst the recent sadness of having lost her mother, and looked forward to a day out gallivanting.
As we drove along, the countryside in its early summer splendour streamed by. We even stopped to admire the view, and at a wayside table outside a large kitchen garden, where I bought the first broad beans, and a pumpkin plant.
Shipston on Stour is a little gem of Cotswold Town. The architecture was typical, and the golden cotswold stone houses well kept. I found the Needlecraft Shop, and was amazed by the range of items available: knitting yarns, embroidery items etc. My eye caught a Dodo crewel work cushion kit, and was severely tempted. There was a room devoted to tapestry wool alone. They came up trumps supplying our craft group with an excellent piece of pure linen for embroidery. I shall return!

We spent over an hour looking round the town and the interesting range of shops. People in the town were very courteous and helpful. One home furniture store opened their chapel showroom for us, which had a wonderful range of sumptuous settees.

We went into a number of galleries and I could not resist going into a clock shop. My son loves clocks, and I always think of him when I see such a place. There had some beautiful period French Clocks, and some superb carriage clocks, which sticking one, reminded us that we needed to be on our way to the pottery and also find some lunch. Whichford Pottery and the surrounding area alone, would have been worth the drive. The displays of plants in pots, the whole range of pots from the smallest to huge pots destined no doubt for some Castle grounds, as well as in the indoor gallery provided visual satisfaction. I felt so pleased to be looking at superb items made in England.

There were several English Potters exhibiting, and I was so pleased to find Laurence McGowan was still working, and there were a few items there which confirmed the details of the potter of my bowl which I have had from many moons ago

With my new Whichford Potter pot safely stashed away in the boot, we headed off for the local Inn where we had a excellent lunch sat on the lawn overlooking Whichford Green.

When I got home and reviewed our lovely day out with Mr S over a cup of tea, I got out the bowl and placed it on the windowsill to enjoy.

WI Coffee Morning

As a new member of the Kenilworth WI, I am still getting to know the various members, as well as their traditions and rituals. Some I know pretty well through the weekly craft group, and through the lunch & supper outings and trips.

The group has been going for many years, there are many newer members like myself, but alsothere are people who have been members and friends for many years. At a recent meeting, our President announced that two members had recently died, and that we were holding a coffee morning to mark their passing. As one of the members was celebrated for her shortbread, we would have a bring and buy cake stall. All the proceeds from the morning would be donated to two charities close to these ladies' hearts.
What a lovely way to celebrate these two women's contribution to the group. I overheard some lovely remarks about them. Kay our hostess made shortbread biscuits for the morning, and I certainly feel she is a worthy successor as Queen of Shortbread. I had to have more than one to check the batches, and also begged for some to be added to the sale table.

I came home with six perfect shortbread biscuits. That, however, was in addition to a "Boneka".
This beautiful doll came in its own attractive box, covered in the same fabric as the doll's garment. One of our recent new members lived in Indonesia for a while, and used to buy these frequently at her local market to help support the local crafts. Now back in the UK she was surprised by just how many she had, and very generously offered some of them for our sale table on this occasion.